Whether you’ve splurged on a special bottle of whiskey or are stocking up on tequila to make margaritas, here’s the good news: You don’t need to worry too much about how to store your liquor. According to the pros, most distilled spirits keep just fine at room temperature and don’t require special equipment.
Spirits are very hardy and don’t require coddling or monitoring.
That being said, a few guidelines can help keep your spirits in optimal condition, even over the long term.
Store spirits at room temperature.
In general, “room temperature” is defined as 68–77°F. However, bottled spirits will be comfortable at a wider range, especially if they are stored away from direct sunlight and humidity.
Anything under 80°F should be fine. Compared to wine, you don’t have to be as strict about storing spirits. You can keep them in a relatively warm closet for a long time, even if they’re open or if it’s been more than a year.
Some professionals prefer slightly cooler temperatures for storage, around 58–59°F, but nothing more than that.
Below that temperature range? Don’t worry.
Spirits stored below that range won’t be harmed, although some, especially those that are not chill-filtered, may appear cloudy or hazy.
If you want the spirit to look perfectly clear, keep it above 35–40°F. If it’s not chill-filtered, some solids may separate, which doesn’t cause any harm but affects its appearance. To fix this, shake or stir the spirit to reintegrate the solids and let it return to room temperature.
Thanks to their high alcohol content, spirits won’t freeze. However, they may thicken slightly in below-room-temperature conditions. Some vodka lovers intentionally store bottles in the freezer for an extra chill and slightly syrupy pour. But chilling spirits in a fridge or freezer may alter their flavor, muting lighter notes that are present in room-temperature bottles.
So, if you want to keep that pre-batched martini in the freezer, go ahead, but be aware that the gin’s botanical flavors may seem less pronounced.
ACE Spirits distillation equipment
Above that temperature range? It’s okay for the short term.
Long-term exposure to heat can cause spirits to degrade in quality over time, as it encourages oxidation of compounds such as oils and lipids. Some alcohol may also evaporate.
Fortunately, it takes more than a short heat wave to ruin a spirit. It typically takes months or even years.
A bottle of wine can be ruined by a very hot day, but spirits won’t show noticeable changes for a long time. They might lose some flavor and taste slightly off, but they won’t be completely ruined. They should still be drinkable and somewhat enjoyable, just not at their peak.
Rising temperatures can cause the contents of a bottle to expand, potentially leading to stoppers or corks popping. This is more likely to occur with open bottles, as well as those with cork or T-top closures that get pushed into the bottle neck (twist-top closures are unlikely to be affected).
We’ve actually experienced this at our distillery during hot Iowa summers in the early days.
Keep spirits away from direct sunlight and humidity.
Never store whiskey, especially, in direct sunlight as it can lead to oxidation and a sunstruck, rancid flavor.
Excessive humidity can also cause “an elevated level of alcohol loss” and potentially make cork closures swell and break off.
An early warning sign of excessive light exposure is when labels appear faded or discolored. This can be particularly concerning for spirit collectors, as the label is part of the value. If you notice fading labels, move the bottles to a darker, cooler spot or roll the bar cart away from the window.
Cap open bottles tightly and store them upright.
Sealed bottles can withstand temperature and climate fluctuations better than opened bottles. However, an opened spirit can still last a relatively long time if the cap is securely replaced.
Once a bottle is opened, it becomes even more important to stick to a strict storage routine. Put the stopper back on, keep it away from heat and sunlight, and try to store it in cool, dark conditions.
It’s crucial to store spirit bottles upright, especially those with cork closures, as the high alcohol content and other factors can deteriorate the cork.
When stored in the right conditions—cool, dark, tightly closed—an opened bottle of 80-proof-or-higher spirit can be preserved for years, even decades.